Picked by my local book club, I once again didn’t manage to make it to the discussion of this novel. Oh well. But I did download a free audiobook version using the Audiobooks app, and listened to it in its entirety on a road trip.I highly recommend the app. But back to the novel.
First published in 1929, Passing is a candid tale of shifting racial boundaries. Clare Kendry, an elegant woman is leading a dangerous life as her racist white husband is unaware of her African American heritage. In a chance encounter she reconnects with a childhood friend, Irene Redfield, who is equally light-skinned but has decided to live as an African-American woman though she doesn’t acknowledge the racism that limits her. Both women now have to face their secret fears and lies about themselves that they have told to others.
The author, Nella Larsen, herself a light-skinned African-American woman, was one of the premier female voices of the 1920s-1930s Harlem Renaissance. The novel is a very simple one with deep threads of complexity including the above mentioned racial identify issues but also sexual tension, guilt, jealously, and anger.
Now if only I had made the book club meeting to discuss the ending!